9:45. My heart begins to race. I unconsciously cross my legs on top of one another with my foot anxiously bouncing up and down, my leggings making a soft swishing sound from the friction of them rubbing together. My teacher drones on and on and on about poetry. Normally, I’d be interested. A quick survey of the room tells me that I must be the only one with so much nervous energy. All that begins to race through my mind is what will happen when the clock hits 10:00.
9:50. Now my palms begin to sweat, my left hand clenching and flexing in regular intervals. I can’t do this. I can’t be bold. I can’t be a leader. The rhythmic beat of my heart races when I think about what I’m about to do.
9:58. There is a sinking feeling in my stomach. I wish I could disappear from the world and melt away into the shadows of the classroom. But my friend and I decided to take action. We decided our voices needed to be heard. There’s no turning back now.
9:59. My eyes scan the classroom. Who will join me? I’m surprised to find that some are already looking my way. They know what’s coming, and I, in a way, am their leader. I look towards the clock. Ten seconds left. I gather my courage, force all the anxiety out of my system, and uncross my legs.
10:00. My heart stops and I am frozen in shock. Although my hesitation feels like it spans an eternity, it only takes a second for me to stand. For a moment, I am the only one. I catch my teacher’s eyes, and although her face appears neutral, I think I see her beaming with pride. Once I am halfway towards the door, my peers stand and follow me. Entering the hallway, I see more students following suit. Together, we walk out.
10:17. 17 minutes of gathering for 17 students who couldn’t outrun bullets. My friend and I use our voices. Our presence brings silence to the crowds. We don’t speak of the violence but instead use our time to spread the message of peace. Yet, even in the 17 minutes of shared peace, all 300 of us cannot seem to understand why people decide to end students’ lives.
Months later, I still don’t.